Here's something that slipped through the cracks last week. Which cracks? The ones in space and time which mean that even though RPS diligently covers every single piece of PC gaming news long before any other site, sometimes it appears as though we haven't. But we have. I actually wrote this post a week last Wednesday, for instance.
Anyway - Age of Empires Online. That's the project ex-Ensemble Guys Robot Entertainment were working on before turning their attentions to Orcs Must Die. Turns out, however, that they weren't the only studio working on it. You know how SupCom/Dungeon Siege studio Gas Powered Guys put Kings and Castles on hold? This, I'm guessing, is why.
GPG have essentially taken over ongoing development of Microsoft's free to play reboot of its historical RTS. Bit of a funny business -a dev that's specialised in impressively in-depth strategy titles for dyed-in-the-wool strategy-heads, now moving to something aimed at a new breed of online gamer. AOEO is free to play, with optional additional content such as new civs. GPG boss Chris Taylor is adamant in the below interview with VentureBeat that it's possible to play tons of stuff without cracking open your digiwallet, but that's an oft-made claim about F2P. Yeah, you can, but the sense of missing out and not being able to keep up with the Joneses often means it doesn't work out that way. Here's Taylor chatting away, including tackling the thorny issue of "accessible" - that doesn't mean it's not aimed at the AOE hardcore too, apparently.
In terms of that cuteified art style, here's the latest trailer:
Obvsiously the cartooniness is going to put a little rage in people's brains, but at the same time it's really rather good-looking. That gloss? That is hi-gloss.
Tough one to call at the moment. On the one hand, it's Microsoft looking to PC game, and putting a respected dev onto it rather than farming it out to some startup obsessed with new business models. On the other hand, it always seems a little funny to use a name with so much meaning to so many people then apply it to something that looks/feels so different. We'll see - however it turns out, hopefully it doesn't mean we've seen the end of original GPG projects.
More details on the GPG takeover on the official AOEO blog, plus details on how to sign up for the forthcoming beta.